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Thomas R. Newman and Steven J. Ahmuty Jr. Thomas R. Newman and Steven J. Ahmuty Jr.

Although reply briefs are optional, it is generally advisable to file a reply brief lest the respondent’s unanswered arguments take hold before oral argument is heard or the lack of a reply is viewed as a concession of the validity of those arguments. More to the point, few lawyers can resist the temptation of having the last word when the opportunity presents itself.

A reply brief’s mission is different from an opening brief. A reply gives the appellant an opportunity to answer the questions the reviewing court may have after reading the respondent’s brief. The court may need to know more about the key facts, the relevant case or statutory law, or the policy considerations that militate against the respondent’s position. All too often, however, reply briefs fall into one of two categories: one that merely rehashes the appellant’s main arguments without replying to the respondent’s opposing arguments in any meaningful fashion, or one that goes tit-for-tat with every factual and legal argument in the respondent’s brief. These types of reply briefs do little to advance the appellant’s cause and should be avoided.

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